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Berlinale Bloggers 2018 “Films mean something different for everyone”

Kazuhiro Soda: Minatomachi (2018)
© Laboratory X,Inc

Kazuhiro Soda’s documentary film Inland Sea (Minatomachi), world-premiered at the Berlinale, paints a poignant portrait of the losers of urbanization.

By Hikaru Suzuki

Arriving at the cinema on the first Saturday afternoon of the Berlinale, I saw long queues at the entrance. While I often go the Kino Arsenal, I rarely go to the Cinestar. In fact I only come here during the Berlinale, so this is where I finally have the feeling that the Berlinale has actually begun.
 
For the film’s premiere, the director took the stage and said, “This is where my career as a filmmaker began.” He was here today to present his latest work, Inland Sea (Minatomachi, 2018). The director has captured the essence of a dying rural community near Okayama in black-and-white images: the day-to-day life of a fisherman, who, at the age of 86, still has to go out fishing every day to earn his livelihood; the despondency of Kumi-san, who walks along the shore alone every day and frets because the government has stopped paying benefits for the care of her handicapped son; the distress of Koso-san, who, after the death of her husband, was suddenly compelled to carry on his fish trade.
 
Director Kazuhiro Soda recounts these individual fates, representative of rural communities that are dying out all over Japan, through Ozu-esque camera work and highly poetic images.
 
The audience was still chatting and laughing when the film started. But the poignant observations shown on the screen gradually led us from laughing to crying. Not for nothing has the director posted his “Ten Commandments of Observational Filmmaking” on his web site.

Very few other filmmakers are as rigorous in their approach as Soda. The world premiere of Inland Sea, his third film to be screened at the Berlinale, brought him from New York, where he has been based since 1993, back to the German capital for the first time in nine years. He discusses his impressions in an interview.
   

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